NCAA Punishment of Penn State — Is It Enough?

The debate has raged on for days and days about what, if any, punishment Pennsylvania State University should receive for the abominable actions of some of its leaders over the last several years covering up the heinous acts of Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator of the football team under legendary (although now for a whole new set of reasons) coach Joe Paterno.  Sandusky, of course, has been convicted of dozens of acts of child molestation that several key members of the University’s leadership knew about and chose to either not report or follow up on.  The result was over a decade of sanctioned child abuse and probably the worst known case of “enabling” that has ever been documented.

A record erased from the history books and a statue removed from its base.

Obviously, the punishment for Jerry Sandusky will be decided when he is sentenced for the convictions later this year.  It is all but a certainty that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, and many believe that prison culture may make that lifespan not as long as one might think.  But the NCAA had the undesirable position of having to determine how to punish the university on the academic and athletic levels, which has launched plenty of controversy.

The battle lines were drawn pretty clearly.  Some felt the NCAA should levy the heaviest punishment at its disposal, the so-called “death penalty” which would shut down the legendary football program completely.  Others argued that while some sort of sanctions were appropriate, the death penalty would only cause unnecessary suffering to players, new coaches, and new university staff that had no involvement whatsoever in the acts of the former regime.  The debate went on endlessly on sports show and Internet forums, but today, the NCAA opted to fall somewhere in between, but still sending a damning message to Penn State and the rest of the college football world in the aftermath of what is surely the biggest scandal to ever rock the sport.

Penn State was spared the death penalty, but many argue that the actual punishments enacted amount to something worse.  The school is ineligible for post-season play, including bowl games, for the next four years.  This means that regardless of their record, they would not be allowed to participate in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game or the National Championship game.  Furthermore, they would not be able to participate in any bowl game after the regular season.  Bowl games are huge cash cows in college football, not to mention a reward to teams that perform well during the regular season.  The four year ban is not unprecedented, but it does mean that any player entering the university now would have no chance of playing in a bowl game in their college athletic career.  The NCAA also severely limited scholarships that the football team can offer, and the entire institution is under a 5-year probation.  If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA also hit them with a $60 million fine that will be used to start a fund for child abuse victims.  This number represents a rough estimate of how much the Penn State program pulls in each year.

What was unprecedented is the vacation of wins during Coach Joe Paterno’s tenure, dating all the way back to the first incident Sandusky is known to have been involved in, 1998.  This resulted in Paterno and Penn State losing credit for over 100 wins and took the legendary coach from being the all-time leading coach in wins to twelfth.  Bobby Bowden now officially reigns as the coach with the most wins in major college football, a coveted title that led both Bowden and Paterno to probably coach years beyond their natural day in the sun.

Friends forever!

While the vacating of Paterno’s wins will go down as the biggest news of this punishment announcement, it’s the players that are the biggest losers.  Think about it.  Penn State was an upper-tier football program; people coming in to play here had professional ambitions and the thoughts of competing for at least a conference, if not national, championship.  Bowl games are synonymous with the Penn State name.  What often goes overlooked is the scholarship reductions.  This may seem like a punishment for the school initially, but think about someone out there actually not getting a free college education because Penn State is not allowed more scholarship offerings.  That’s kind of the sickening part of it.  Yes, it’s true that any big-time recruit will get a scholarship somewhere, but down the line, someone actually loses the opportunity to attend college and participate in football because of this.  Ultimately, ten less people per year, somewhere, will get scholarships because of the NCAA’s mandate and the senseless actions of the institution.

At the end of the day, the NCAA certainly sent a resounding message that football cultures cannot become so all-powerful that they overshadow rules of law, academics, and simple ethics and morality, things that most of us don’t have to be taught or forced to observe.  I think most of us know that if you see someone raping a child in the locker room, something needs to be done, and sooner rather than later.  Now, with Joe Paterno passing away just in the nick of time, he will never know of what happened to his legacy after his death.

Joe Paterno died with his record intact.  He also died a liar, continuing to insist that he did all that was asked of him by the law and the university.  Nothing the NCAA or a judge sentencing Sandusky can do will make much difference when all is said and done.  All acts of child sexual abuse are, of course, unnecessary, but in a case like this, where so many people collaborated to enable them to keep happening for years and multiple victims, the footprint of Sandusky’s crimes will affect so many people for years to come.  And not just his direct victims.  Every player at Penn State that just lost their right to play for championships and bowl games is a Sandusky victim as well.  Every fan that just lost the pride of wearing their Penn State or Paterno T-shirt is a victim.  And somewhere down the line, people will lose jobs as the economic engine of this town and campus falls into irrelevance.

Is it enough?  I guess it’ll have to be.

One thought on “NCAA Punishment of Penn State — Is It Enough?”

  1. Philly sex abuse victim recalls horrid encounter with Edward Savitz, associate of ex-Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky
    Greg Bucceroni says he remembers thinking Second Mile charity was going to save him from troubled times, but instead it led him down the road to being abused.
    By Christian Red / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
    Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 1:23 AM
    Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 2:45 PM

    Greg Bucceroni says he doesn’t remember the specific location he was driven to in 1979, when he says he was a troubled teenager who had been in and out of at least one Philadelphia after-school youth service program.

    Bucceroni says he accompanied Edward Savitz, a well-known Philadelphia businessman, Democratic political booster and advocate for at-risk children, to a fund-raiser “somewhere past Harrisburg.”

    The event was to raise money for the recently established Second Mile foundation, and Bucceroni says he remembers meeting the man everyone referred to as “The Coach,” Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who founded Second Mile in 1977. Bucceroni says Savitz and Sandusky knew each other through The Second Mile and political fund-raising events.

    “I remember thinking that the Second Mile is going to save me. I have a chance to get out of trouble,” says Bucceroni.

    Bucceroni’s story was a twisted, tortured one in the three years leading up to his brief interaction with Sandusky. The Philadelphia native, who now works as a police officer in the city’s public school system, says he was sexually abused by Savitz starting in 1977. Like Sandusky, Savitz met and groomed many of his alleged victims through his work with at-risk youths.

    Bucceroni says Savitz lived in an apartment near Philly’s affluent Rittenhouse Square, and that the abuse took place there as well as well as at other locations. Bucceroni recalled horrific instances of abuse, where Savitz would engage in oral sex with Bucceroni and other victims. Savitz’s attorney, Barnaby Wittels, told the Daily News Savitz paid his victims in exchange for them performing deviant acts.

    Bucceroni says he told police in 1980 about his abuse at the hands of Savitz, but that no charges were filed then; Savitz was finally arrested in March 1992, charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sex abuse of children, indecent assault and corrupting the morals of a minor. He died of AIDS in a hospice days before his trial was to begin in April 1993.

    Bucceroni says he doesn’t know if any of his abuse claims were part of the charges brought against Savitz in the early ’90s. He adds that he talked to Lynne Abraham, the former Philadelphia district attorney who prosecuted Savitz, in December, but that she couldn’t recall all the victims whose claims led to Savitz being charged. There were over 5,000 photos of Savitz’s many alleged victims recovered by authorities from Savitz’s apartment, including many of Bucceroni.

    Last fall, when the Penn State/Sandusky scandal exploded, Bucceroni says he decided to speak out about his past, hoping that by doing so, he might inspire “other people to have the courage to come forward” and talk about being sexual abuse victims. Monday, the Patriot-News (Harrisburg) reported that police have identified three new victims who were allegedly abused by Sandusky in the ’70s.

    Bucceroni, now 49, says he came very close to becoming involved with Second Mile — his stepfather even completed paperwork to enroll him in the program the following year, 1980, and he went with Savitz to a State College-area Second Mile fund-raiser to “hand deliver” the enrollment form to Sandusky. But an altercation between Bucceroni and Savitz that spring of 1980 torpedoed any chances at being accepted into Second Mile. That was as close as Bucceroni ever came to being in contact with Sandusky, who was convicted last month on 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors.

    “Savitz would take us out to places, he gave us clothes, money, alcohol,” says Bucceroni. “He first asked if I was well-endowed, and I didn’t know what that meant. Then, one thing led to more and more requests. I became almost like a child prostitute.”

    Wittels says he is not aware of any communication that Savitz maintained with Sandusky and that he was unaware of the two men spending time together socially or through charity events. Wittels says he did not handle any civil suits filed against Savitz.

    When former FBI director Louis Freeh released his report on Penn State and the Sandusky matter last week, the report only addressed Sandusky’s abuse from the ’90s to present. A spokesman for the Freeh group told The News Monday that Freeh would not comment on why the investigation did not extend back to the ’80s and ’70s.

    “All I wanted was my dignity,” Bucceroni says of why he decided to address his past. “I never went to college, my first marriage failed, there were failed job opportunities. It f—ed my life up. But maybe by talking, this will help others.”

    Sex abuse victim recalls horrid encounter with Edward Savitz, associate of ex-Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky – NY Da

    Greg Bucceroni
    PO Box 22714
    Philadelphia, PA 19110

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